If you are a seafood lover, more so one who likes exploring seafood in its cooked and raw state, you must have had lots of tuna. Of course, there are a lot of foods that can be consumed straight from the sea, but can you eat raw tuna? This is the question I shall be answering today, from my own experience, considering the health aspects of this practice.
Still not satisfied with the plain answer? I shall also explain whether raw tuna is safe for expectant mothers or if this delicacy can be consumed raw if it’s bought from the supermarket. Finally, I shall go over the method I’ve always used to prepare raw tuna for my sushi.
What is Raw Tuna Called?
Raw seafood has been consumed for a while now. This is perhaps the origin of sushi, a favorite Japanese meal that includes rice and mostly raw seafood, including tuna. Although sushi occasionally has cooked seafood, it is primarily raw, leading to diversity in describing the ingredients. One such term is sashimi.
Sashimi is a word describing the fish or seafood combined with cold seasoned rice to make up the sushi. If you are the type that prefers the seafood in sushi over the seasoned rice or vegetables, order sashimi the next time you visit the restaurant. It’s just the raw seafood.
Generally speaking, there are different types of seafood in sushi. If you are referring to raw tuna, the proper term to use is ‘ahi’. For specific raw tuna varieties, ‘Bincho’ refers to raw albacore tuna, ‘Katsuo’ refers to raw skipjack tuna, while ‘Maguro’ may generally refer to uncooked tuna of any species.
- How long does tuna last in the fridge?
- What does tuna taste like?
Is it Safe to Eat Raw Tuna?
We have all consumed raw foods, mostly fruits, and vegetables, but there is always extra caution required when it comes to uncooked animal products. Animals may harbor disease-causing parasites in their flesh, which are transmitted to people who consume such uncooked meat.
It is generally safe to eat raw tuna if all of the contaminants are eliminated. Seafood, especially tuna, is almost always free of disease-causing organisms if it thrives in the natural habitat- the sea, and is appropriately handled all the way. The only chance of contamination is if and when the tuna is mishandled from the point of harvesting to when it is consumed. You’ll need to freeze the tuna and ensure its proper handling if you wish to safely consume it raw.
FDA provides the guidelines for consuming raw tuna, along with other types of raw seafood. It’s best to acquaint yourself with these guidelines to be on the safer side. Nevertheless, always consider the possibility of contamination and take the necessary measures for absolute safety.
How to Eat Raw Tuna?
Eating raw tuna is associated with one significant risk- the presence of harmful pathogens in the food. For this reason, you are safer when you cook the tuna. Still, you can consume raw tuna safely if you follow the FDA guideline. These guidelines revolve around freezing the raw tuna to a temperature intolerable for the germs. FDA recommends freezing tuna in one or more of the following ways before consuming it raw:
- storing the tuna at a maximum of -20 degrees Celsius for not less than 7 days,
- storing the raw tuna at a maximum of -35 degrees Celsius for at least 15 hours
- fist freezing the tuna at a max of -35 degrees Celsius and then storing it at -20 degrees Celsius (max) for at least 24 hours.
When it’s time to devour your raw tuna, allow it to thaw in the fridge (not on the countertop) for about 12 hours or until it’s fully defrosted.
The above FDA-recommended method kills most germs, but there is a slight chance that some remain alive. These can do little or no damage at all.
If you are having the raw tuna at a sushi-serving restaurant, rest assured that these eateries follow FDA guidelines regarding serving safe raw tuna. Still, some places may look suspicious of not following the laid-down freezing procedure. As such, enquire how they prepared and ensured the safety of the raw sushi before serving. It’s best to only eat from reputable eating places.
You may also choose to prepare your raw tuna at home. In such a case, you will want to source your tuna from a respectable fishmonger who’s informed of where the tuna is sourced. This way, you will avoid seafood that has been unnecessarily exposed to lots of dirt and thus germs.
How to Prepare Raw Tuna For Sushi
Tuna is part and parcel of sushi. But to get things right, the tuna has to be prepared in a specific manner. For instance, the Japanese, who are the pioneers of sushi, are so specific regarding preparation, serving, and eating sushi that they even emphasize eating the meal in a particular order.
Choosing the tuna is the most essential part of preparing great sushi. Meguro is the name you will hear around for the best tuna for sushi. It is mainly obtained from yellowfin, Bluefin, and Bigeye tuna species.
Albacore tuna, also known as the only true white tuna, can also be used for sushi.
The main parts of the tuna used for sushi are the red meat and the fatty tuna belly (also known as toro). These parts have different fat content, color, and texture, which determines their prices.
Once you have your meat, slice it into sushi-ideal blocks. In Japan, these blocks are referred to as ‘Saku.’ To fillet the follow the following procedure:
- With a fillet knife, split the ventral and dorsal sections into about four large parts. The four parts will be known as ‘Koro’ in sushi terms.
- With the skin facing down, place the Kono on your chopping board.
- Start cutting horizontally, as if making horizontal slices from the Kono, each of the resulting pieces is called ‘Saku’ or fillet.
- Now cut each saku lengthwise into long stripes, known as Sashimi Saku.
- Now cut sashimi slices from the Sashimi Saku by cutting the long strips into shorter cuboids.
Can You Eat Raw Tuna Steak?
Tuna steak is mainly used for making sushi. This means the only safe raw tuna steak is that which qualifies as sushi-grade. You can also eat sashimi-grade tuna raw, but as with all uncooked meats, the risk of contamination is usually very high.
Generally, the best fish for sushi and sashimi, i.e., raw tuna steak, is obtained from tuna that was caught, cleaned, and frozen immediately. The fishing boat must thus have an onboard freezer or refrigeration facility.
Eating Raw Tuna While Pregnant
Pregnant women, children, and people with degraded immune systems should avoid eating raw tuna for several reasons. First, eating raw tuna almost double your risk of catching a listeria bacterial infection. Second, most tuna varieties and seafood, in general, have a high mercury level. Mercury is a heavy metal, puts the life and development of the unborn fetus at risk.
Pregnant women should stay clear of these foods, even if they love them or ate them before the pregnancy.
Health Benefits of Raw Tuna
If you have consumed both raw and cooked tuna, you might wonder if there are benefits inherent to eating raw tuna. While both have the same nutritional value and thus health benefits, raw tuna poses a health risk of foodborne diseases if mishandled before serving.
Even so, cooked tuna is mostly not truly cooked. It is pan-seared while the inside remains raw to preserve the delicate tuna flavor and texture. This means cooked and raw tuna are at par in terms of health benefits and nutrition.
Tuna has a high amount of lean proteins and calories but is low on carbs and fat. It also has dietary iron, potassium, and B vitamins. Other nutrients include selenium and omega 3 fatty acids, which are part of the fat content.
Raw Runa Nutritional Benefits
As you may already know, tuna has a high amount of lean proteins. Statistically, an ounce of albacore tuna has as much as 7 grams of protein. Protein being a bodybuilding food, can easily be obtained if tuna is included in the diet, either daily or occasionally.
Tuna is also a rich source of fats, part of which is the highly beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient is important for the heart and the brain. It also helps soothe the effects of inflammation.
Selenium is another mineral nutrient present in tuna. This mineral helps mitigate the risk of chronic conditions in addition to lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Other important nutrients you get from eating tuna include potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, iron which prevents anemia, and a range of essential B vitamins.
Eating Raw Tuna From The Supermarket
Eating raw tuna can be a risky affair, especially if you are unaware of how the tuna has been handled hitherto. Supermarket raw tuna would be the most questionable now that several persons could be involved in handling it before it lands in the grocery store.
The only safe tuna to eat raw from the supermarket would be only the sushi-grade or sashimi-grade tuna. This is also no guarantee for the absolute safety of the raw tuna but is at least the safest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What does raw tuna look like?
Compared to canned tuna, which is usually cooked and pale in color, fresh raw tuna has a bright red appearance. Different tuna species have different color grades depending on their fat content. This is the reason why Bluefin looks more like watermelon pink. Manufacturers strive to maintain the color by treating the tuna with carbon (ii) oxide before canning.
Q. Can you eat frozen tuna raw?
You can eat raw tuna without any negative results if treated to freezing as outlined by the FDA. In fact, raw tuna should be frozen first and then thawed before consumption.
Q. How much raw tuna is safe to eat?
Almost every edible thing, including water, should be consumed in moderation. This rule applies to tuna also as too much of it may end up in unsafe levels of mercury in the body. An adult should consume a maximum of 520 grams (about 15 ounces) of tuna in a week. This amount should be distributed throughout the week and not consumed in a single serving.
Q. Can cats eat raw tunas?
Cats are as delicate as human beings. They can easily contract foodborne diseases if fed with contaminated food. Tuna may be contaminated with E.coli bacteria; thus, you shouldn’t give your cat raw tuna.
Also, raw tuna, just like other raw fishes, contain thiaminase enzyme. In cats, this enzyme acts on B vitamins. Deficiency in these vitamins can be lethal in cats, often leading to convulsions and coma, among other neurological disorders.
You now know that you can eat raw tuna safely if you observe the FDA guideline regarding this. If you have always wanted to eat raw tuna but had uncertainties surrounding it, feel free to try out this delicacy, but don’t extend the kindness to your cat for the reasons listed above.